Jazz pianist is back in town

Jun 18, 2012

Pianist George Cables has an intensely rhythmic style and always comes out swinging. He first became famous as a sideman in the 1970s, playing with such luminaries as Art Blakey and Dexter Gordon.

Some of Cables’ best work in those years came as a sideman with saxophonist Art Pepper. It seems that Cables’ was fond of Pepper. “Art Pepper was a bit eccentric,” says Cables. “He was a great alto player and very warm.”

Pepper had an erratic career. Having been jailed for drug use several times in the 1950s, he emerged in the 70s rehabilitated. He became most famous for his ballad playing. When asked about his experience playing with Art Pepper, Cables says, “I had a great time with him just playing music. Playing a ballad. He always wanted to play slow, never double up. We want to be completely different. He could do that.”

George Cables lived in Los Angeles for many years and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. He played frequently at the old Keystone Corner jazz club and became well known to Bay Area fans.

Cables reminisces fondly about his time in San Francisco: “I love playing there, being there. It’s a great vibe. When you come to S.F., you get off the plane, you got into a cab, ninety percent of the cabs had KJAZZ or a jazz station. I felt very much at home there.”

Eventually, Cables moved back to New York, where he lives today. He migrated for very practical reasons. “When you live outside of NY, people consider you a local musician and don’t want to pay you very much,” he explains.

Cables now performs regularly with The Cookers, a swinging bebop band that includes both older and younger musicians. The Cookers includes such luminaries as Cecil McBee on bass, Billy Hart on drums, Eddie Henderson on trumpet and Billy Harper on sax.

Cables is enjoying playing with The Cookers. “This band is something special because of the relationship of us and our experience, the musician and commitment of everyone in the band,” he says.

George Cables performs with The Cookers at Oakland Yoshi’s June 20-21. Reese Erlich’s “Jazz Perspectives” air monthly on KALW. To discover more jazz artists, visit www.jazzcorner.com/innerviews.